The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

“Critically Acclaimed” DC United 2006-2007?

Posted by steigs on May 1, 2008

ESPN’s Sports Guy today gives an obituary for the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.

I made my friend Chris Connelly appear on this week’s “B.S. Report” to discuss “critically acclaimed sports teams,” following up on a discussion we had right after Game 2 of the Suns-Spurs series, when things were looking bleak for Phoenix and the end of Mike D’Antoni’s reign seemed imminent.

“Well, that’s OK that they didn’t win the title,” Connelly cheerfully said at the time. “At least they were critically acclaimed!”

From there, Connelly unleashed his theory of “critically acclaimed” sports teams (check the podcast for the full details) and how these Suns teams would be cheerfully remembered some day like we remember Coryell’s Chargers and the Fab Five. In other words, it didn’t really matter that they never won a championship, just like it didn’t matter that “Pulp Fiction” didn’t win an Oscar, “The Wire” never won an Emmy and “Arrested Development” bombed in the ratings. We would always remember them fondly and feel like they were more successful than they actually were.

You know, I think I’ve seen that movie.  In fact, I watched it at RFK over the last two seasons.  They didn’t win a championship but they were a lot of fun to watch.  DC United had a sheen of class and sophistication, at least by MLS standards.  They passed the ball around, they had lots of possession.  They sometimes gave off a sense that they’d rather make the extra pass to score a brilliant goal than shoot in the first place.  (I suppose that was one difference from the Suns, who were supposed to look for a shot in “seven seconds or less.”)  We felt good watching them play.  We felt good when experts approved of their play.

Simmons suggests that in the long run people will remember the Suns fondly.  I hope that’s true for DC United, 2006-2007.  I’m less sure of it — for one, the two-time champion Dynamo were an appealing team as well, perhaps more than the other Texas champions, the San Antonio Spurs.  The other is DCU has a stronger profile in MLS than the Suns in the NBA — we’re more disliked for our past successes and, sometimes, our attitude/confidence/arrogance. 

Earlier this week, Manchester United eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League and word in the press continues to be that the team will come in for an overhaul.  ‘Bye Ronaldinho, maybe Henry, maybe Marquez etc.  They’ve also been a team that’s been “critically acclaimed” for style and creativity.  (In fact, watching them pass the ball around and around and around against Man U I was reminded of some of the more frustrating times with DCU in recent years — take a shot, will you!)  But they have higher expectations.  They think they should win La Liga and the Champions League.  So being “critically acclaimed” is more frustrating, like DCU has been for us. 

And that will be a factor in how they are remembered.  Their fans will be more disappointed and neutrals will be less willing to sympathize. 

Sigh.  I just hope this classic Simmons pop culture reference isn’t entirely applicable to DC United, because I fear that the Gomez for Gallardo move may risk looking like bringing Shaq to Phoenix, the last phase of the old team, not the first phase of the new one:

Meanwhile, the Suns were like the John Belushi of basketball teams — thrilling, creative, inventive and loved by all, but ultimately, they couldn’t sustain what they were doing for more than a couple of years, and by the time it came to a screeching halt, we were already wishing that things could return to the way they were three years before. Like Belushi, the Suns were critically acclaimed. Like Belushi (drugs), the Suns had an Achilles’ heel (Robert Sarver). Like Belushi, the Suns tried to change their style near the end and it didn’t work out. Like Belushi, we will remember the Suns fondly, and every time we see one of their old classic moments popping up on TV, we’ll probably watch.

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One Response to ““Critically Acclaimed” DC United 2006-2007?”

  1. Aaron Stollar said

    True but painful.

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